Chapter 26 – Claude’s Visit
Soon after I finished saying that, my stomach began to do back flips.
First of all, the information I knew about the duke was…unfortunately very little. His importance in the original work was just like Maristella’s. In a sense, that was to be expected since he wasn’t the typical ‘sub-male character’.
Claude Istvan von Escliffe.
In the original novel, Duke Escliffe succeeded his father, who died a year ago, and took over as the head of the Escliffe family. At present, he and Crown Prince Xavier were competing fiercely for the first and second place of “A man that I want as a son-in-law” and “a single man that I want to get married to”.
When my eyes alighted on Clause for the first time, I realized why he was considered one of the most eligible bachelors of the kingdom along with Xavier.
‘He’s really good-looking…’
His face outshone Xavier’s.
Aside from money, power, and all that, he really was good-looking.
If Xavier’s face could be said to have a cold appeal, Claude’s was warm and friendly like a summer’s day. Of course, apart from the differences in appearances, I couldn’t deny that both were attractive.
“Hello, Lady Maristella,” Clause said in greeting.
Woah, that voice was like honey to my ears.
If there was an occupation as a radio show host or voice actor in this era, he had the perfect voice that I would recommend at any cost. I stared blankly ahead as I let the velvety tones of his voice massage my brain, but I quickly came to my senses when I realized that I had to answer him.
“Ah, Duke Escliffe. Welcome.” I felt something was lacking in my greeting, so I added more. “Welcome to our house.”
Ah… I might have overdone it. It wasn’t like he came here for something good.
No, he came here because I survived the carriage accident without dying. Wasn’t that a good thing…?
As I titled my head in confusion, I heard Claude chuckle. I flushed in embarrassment, and he hurriedly apologized.
“Ah, I’m sorry, Lady Maristella. I’m not making fun of you,” he said calmly. “I couldn’t help it because you were too cute… I’m sorry, My Lady. I apologize if I offended you.”
“No, well…it’s fine.” I must have become more generous than usual because even that giggle was attractive—he was like a real life statue that was smiling. I gave a nod and suggested he sit. I couldn’t leave an injured guest standing for too long.
“Have a seat, My Lord. I’m sure you’re not feeling very well either.”
“Ah.” Clause gave an awkward smile. “Fortunately, I recently got permission to go out from my doctor.”
“I wish I were you,” I said enviously. “My doctor told me I’d have to stay in bed for another month.”
“Ah, are you still not feeling well?”
“I don’t think so. I’m still young, so I’m recovering fast…and I have almost all my bones attached. But my doctor is a little unusual. Of course, it’s best to be safe…” However, I shook my head in displeasure. “I think I’m going crazy because I couldn’t move for two months and just stayed in bed. That’s not something that a human should do.”
“Ah…” When Claude heard that, his expression suddenly worsened and he leapt from his seat. I stared at him questioningly, and suddenly he knelt before…me?
“I’m sorry, lady. I have committed a grave sin.”
“I think it’s right to apologize first. I am truly sorry, My Lady. It’s all my fault.”
I blinked in surprise. “Well… You were also the victim of the carriage accident. It’s not like you did it on purpose.”
“It’s my fault and you’re innocent. I’m very sorry about that. The Escliffe family will take responsibility for the financial and mental damage you suffered from this incident.”
The financial damage was one thing, but how would he compensate for mental damage…?
Curious at the unexpected point, I asked without much thought, “How are you going to compensate for mental damage—”
“Ah.” Claude quickly looked up at me. “Is there any official damage compensation that you wish to seek?”
No, why are you asking that to me?
“Didn’t you say that to me because you had something in mind?” I asked.
“Of course, I have some ideas, but just in case,” Clause said. “I learned that compensation should best reflect the victim’s opinion.”
“Well, nothing much for me… I was shocked at first but it got a lot better over time.” Of course, I didn’t know if I had PTSD about carriages, but I was still fine.
Claude seemed unsatisfied by my answer, and he looked at me with a serious expression. “Do you not want any compensation for mental damage?”
“Ah, no. No, that’s not what I meant,” I said quickly. “What exactly is ‘compensation for mental damage’, My Lord?”
“Good question.” Claude gave a bright smile.
Thinking that it would be a million dollars if I cashed that smile, I gulped without realizing it. I couldn’t believe there was a man in this world that had such a beautiful smile.
Xavier’s smile was also beautiful, but his was kind of a sculptural smile, while Claude’s was a bit more like a drawing… Actually, they were just the same.
“I thought you’d be very bored while you were in bed,” Claude said.
“That’s true.” I listed out all my grievances. “I read books and talk with my sister, but I can’t help to be bored because I cannot go out.”
“So I will visit you until you fully recover.”
“I see… No, w-wait,” I stammered, my eyes wide. “W-what did you just say?”
“Oh no, you didn’t hear properly,” Claude said with slight regret, then spoke again, clearly enunciating each syllable. “I said I will visit Bellafleur mansion until you fully recover.”
“I…don’t really want that kind of compensation, My Lord,” I refused with a polite shake of my head, but Claude looked quite shocked when he heard that.
No, you really don’t know?
“We don’t have such a close relationship…to meet every day,” I said carefully so as to not cause offense as much as possible. I threw a secret glance at Claude, but he still looked like he was in shock.
Of course, Claude’s face was practically a national treasure, so it was true that I would be happy just by looking at him. But how could he decide we would talk every day after just one meeting—not to mention over such a terrible accident!
‘Woah, just thinking about it makes me feel so awkward.’
No matter how much I liked a good-looking man, that wasn’t a good idea. Not to mention, how would it look for a duke to visit a single young lady’s house ‘every day’, not just ‘sometimes’, for reasons of friendship?
It was a perfect situation to spread strange rumors. Something like that would have legs.
“I didn’t think it through, My Lady,” Claude said.
Ah, he finally seemed to realize how ridiculous his offer was. I nodded, feeling proud.
“Thank you for understanding, My Lord,” I said. “This one visitation is already—”
“First of all, I’m going to challenge a close relationship.”
No, how the hell did he come to that conclusion? I sat frozen as I blinked stupidly at him. He was being unreasonable.
I awkwardly cleared my throat. “Duke, you don’t have to do that.”
If he asks the reason, ah, I really have nothing to tell him. Yeah, why not? He wants to get close to me. Do I have the right to stop him? It’s not like I hated him, so why stop? Various reasons floated through my mind, while Claude smiled his beautiful smile at me.
Hah, so good-looking.
“It looks like you haven’t found a good reason,” he said.
He was correct.
I was speechless and shut my mouth without realizing it. That heart-pounding smile was still on Claude’s lips.
“Such as I am, I’m not uninteresting. At least, I’m not boring,” he said.
“But I don’t know anything about you.”
“You can get to know me slowly, Lady Maristella. It’s not that important.”
Claude, after making a spontaneous decision, glanced towards the clock, then he looked back at me.
“I’ll be on my way, Lady Maristella. I can’t make you suffer from our first meeting.”
“I will come again tomorrow.”
“No, it’s okay—”
“You don’t have to feel pressured.”
Just think what it would it like for me when a great beauty like you comes to visit me every day, Mr. Claude. Don’t you think it will strain my heart? Don’t you think it’s too much of a burden? That means I have to be careful every day!
“Take care of your health, Lady Maristella,” he said.
“A-are you going?”
“Ah.” A flush creeped up on Claude’s face. “You don’t want me to go?”
“…Hurry up and go.”